Last Updated: Wednesday, 07 October 2015, 08:04 GMT

World Directory of Minorities and Indigenous Peoples - Slovenia : Overview

Publisher Minority Rights Group International
Publication Date 2007
Cite as Minority Rights Group International, World Directory of Minorities and Indigenous Peoples - Slovenia : Overview, 2007, available at: [accessed 7 October 2015]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.


Slovenia lies in the north-western part of south-eastern Europe. It is bordered by Austria, Hungary, Croatia and Italy. Slovenia has a short coastline on the Adriatic Sea and is mountainous.


Main languages: Slovenian, also Serbian, Croatian, Bosnian, Albanian, Romani, Macedonian, Hungarian, Italian, German

Main religions: Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodox Christianity, Islam

The 2002 census put the total population at 1,964,036 people and the main ethnic groups, Slovenes 1,631,363, Serbs 38,964, Croats 35,642, Bosniacs 21,542, Muslims 10,476, Bosnians 8,062, Hungarians 6,243, Albanians 6,186 and Roma 3,246. Other groups include Macedonians, Italians, Montenegrins, Germans.

Slovenes are a Slavic people. They speak Slovenian and are predominately Roman Catholic. Various groups from former Yugoslavia are the biggest de facto minorities. This includes predominately Serbs, Roma, Croats, Bosniaks, Muslims, and Albanians, most of whom came from Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo. People from SFRY and the autochtonous Roma face exclusion and discrimination. There are relatively small Italian and Hungarian communities, who, in general, enjoy a high level of protection.


Slovenes entered the territory of present-day Slovenia during the fifth and sixth centuries and rapidly fell under Frankish and Roman Catholic influence. From the fourteenth century, the Slovene lands became hereditary possessions of the Austrian Habsburgs and they remained a part of the Habsburg empire until 1918. After the First World War, most of the Slovene lands were incorporated in the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes (after 1929, Yugoslavia), although small areas of Slovene settlement remained within neighbouring Italy, Hungary and Austria. During the Second World War, Slovenia was partitioned between its neighbours, who adopted a harsh policy of assimilation towards Slovenes.

After 1945, Slovenia was restored as a republic within federal Yugoslavia. Disputes over the frontier with Italy were not formally resolved until the 1970s. During Tito's rule, 'ethnically mixed areas' where the small Hungarian and Italian minorities lived, offered bilingual education for both the minorities and the majority.

Slovenia was the most prosperous out of former Yugoslav republics. Most people in Slovenia resented the fact that Slovenia effectively subsidised less developed regions in the south. Slovenia's relative prosperity and the fact that it was the most homogenous republic were key reasons why Slovenia for opted for independence. During Tito's rule, many people from other republics the then Yugoslavia (SFRY) had come to Slovenia to work. When Slovenia gained independence, many of these were left without Slovenian citizenship or residency.

Following a referendum, Slovenia was the first of the former Yugoslav republics to declare independence in June 1991. Milosevic did not recognise Slovenia's independence, and the Yugoslav Army (JNA) briefly intervened, but was defeated by the Slovenian army. Slovenia joined the European Union in 2004 in the first eastern enlargement.


Slovenia's constitution was adopted in 1991. It ensures basic human rights 'irrespective of national origin, race, sex, language, religion'. It includes right to self-identification with an ethnic group, and right to preserve culture and language (art 61). The constitution, however, only recognises Hungarians and Italians as 'autochthonous ethnic groups' and grants them protection in the fields of minority language education, establishment of own educational institutions, establishment of own councils which may submit recommendations to government and participate in decisions on education, and representation at national level. The constitution provides special status and rights to Roma community, which is to be regulated by law, which has not yet been passed due to lack of political will. An Equal Opportunities Act was adopted in 2004. Slovenia has a Human Rights Ombudsman. It also has a Council for Implementation of the Principle of Equal Treatment, which includes members of Italian, Hungarian and Roma communities only, and an Advocate for the Principle of Equality. There is an Office of Nationalities, but, once again, it deals only with groups mentioned in the constitution.

As a member state of the European Union, Slovenia is bound by all its laws, importantly the Directive on Equal Treatment Irrespective of Racial or Ethnic Origin and the Directive Establishing A General Framework for Equal Treatment in Employment and Occupation. These Directives significantly expand protection from discrimination across Europe, and cover direct and indirect discrimination, hidden discrimination and harassment. The Directives are to be transposed by member states into national legislation. In Slovenia, the Race Directive was transposed.

General problems which affect on human rights protection and the rule of law in Slovenia are:

Inefficient judiciary. The judiciary has a large backlog of cases. This in particular impacts people from SFRY who are trying to regularise their status in Slovenia.

Growing intolerance. There is a lack of tolerance and prejudice towards the Roma, Serbs, Roma, Croats, Bosniaks, Muslims, Albanians, Montenegrins and Macedonians and German speakers. According to the Ombudsman and UN Human Rights Committee, intolerance is growing, with a worrying trend high of level politicians and other public figures propagating intolerance, echoed by some media. For example, in late 2006 there were serious concerns that Slovenia's authorities may be involved in facilitating forced eviction of a Roma settlement near Ambrus, following the actions of a non-Romani mob. Reportedly, police did not intervene in a timely fashion and authorities failed to condemn ethnic violence and threats (for more detail see European Roma Rights Centre,

Current state of minorities and indigenous peoples

The most vulnerable and excluded groups in Slovenia are Roma and people from former Yugoslavia who are not ethnic Slovenes. People from former Yugoslavia who came to Slovenia are not considered minorities by the state, indeed some continue to have problems regularising their status. However, they are in a minority position and so are included below. Slovenia has taken some steps to improve minority protection, particularly with regard to the integration of Roma in socio-economic life and legalisation of status of people from former Yugoslavia. Historic Italian and Hungarian minorities enjoy a high level of protection. The main problems in minority protection in Slovenia are:

Lack of recognition. Non-Slovene communities from former Yugoslavia are Slovenia's largest de facto minority groups. Slovenian authorities refused to recognise these groups as minorities, despite their requests to be recognised as such. The government continues to refer to these groups as economic migrants. Lack of recognition severely limits the enjoyment of their human rights, including the right to enjoy own culture, speak own language, education, and to participate in public affairs. Provision for the enjoyment of their rights linked to identity protection has been severely reduced since Slovenia declared independence.

Lack of legal status and access to rights for people from SFRY. In 1992 the authorities of Slovenia erased a large number of not ethnic Slovenes from former Yugoslavia from permanent residence records. These people were deprived of their basic rights, including housing, employment, education and pensions. Lack of papers also restricts people's freedom of movement and contacts with their families. In April 2003, Slovenian Constitutional Court recognised the unlawfulness of the 'erasing' from public registry of people, and the Slovenian Ministry of Interior began issuing permanent residency with retroactive validity. However, some people still have their status unregulated and many still bear the consequences of having been 'erased'.

Economic exclusion of Roma, including lack of access to employment. Unemployment among the Roma is considerably higher than among the general population.. Poverty is widespread, and some people live in appalling conditions including lack of running water and electricity, particularly in informal settlements.

Problems with access to health care and social protection. Roma and people from SFRY whose status was/is not regularised face problems with access to health care and social protection, including social assistance and pensions. This is partly due to lack of personal documents.

Limited access to education. Many Roma children participate in education only at the primary level, or not at all. Some are still taught in special classes or special Roma study groups, which offer inferior level of instruction. There is no provision for teaching Romani. Groups from former Yugoslavia, including Roma, do not have adequate instruction in mother tongue and/or teaching materials, although there is some provision in Serbian, Croatian and Macedonian and steps are taken to develop curricula for teaching of history and culture for various groups.

Problems with practicing Islam. Places of worship for Muslims are insufficient and inadequate. There is no mosque in Ljubljana.

Copyright notice: © Minority Rights Group International. All rights reserved.

Search Refworld